In Japanese Folklore There Are Six Different Classifications of Ghosts

posted: 08/14/16
by: Kelly McClure

It's one thing to eventually come to terms with the fact that there are probably (maybe) spirits that walk amongst us, and to agree upon a common name for those spirits ... "ghosts," but in Japan it doesn't just stop there. In Japanese folklore there are six (SIX!) different classifications for them.

The blanket term for ghosts in Japan is Yurei which translates to either "faint soul" or "dim spirit." They are sometimes also referred to as Borei (ruined or departed spirits) or Shiryo (dead spirit). Similar to other cultures, the Japanese also believe these spirits to be trapped in limbo between earth and the unknown. The different classifications of these spirits are assigned based on how the person died, or what variables keep them attached to earth and unable to move on. Let's take a look at all six:


These are the ghosts of people who died and then before successfully moving on were like "wait, no, I need to go back and get revenge for something." The name literally translates to "vengeful ghost" and they're not very pleasant to encounter. The most infamous Onryo legend is the ghost of a young woman named Oiwa who was disfigured and killed by her husband and then came back for revenge. It's said that even the telling (and reading) of her story could bring about a terrible curse. (Um ... sorry).


The ghost of a woman who died either during childbirth, or while her children were still young, this spirit is unable to find peace because they feel the need to stick around and make sure their children are cared for, which makes them the saddest classification of ghost by far. Or the most noble, depending on how you look at it.


More or less the Marie Antoinette of ghosts, these are the restless spirits of the upper class, or warriors, who stick around to haunt their enemies. If you happen to see one, try offering it some cake and see if it cheers up a bit. Who doesn't like cake?


These restless spirits of people who died at sea would most likely be the most fun ghosts to get drinks with, just don't let them talk you into going swimming ... legend has it that they like to tempt people into drowning.


Stop for a minute and try to think of something more terrifying than the idea of being haunted by the ghosts of children. Nope. You can't. Because there's nothing in any given person's imagination that could possibly be scarier than that. What lessens the scare-factor of this classification just the tiniest bit is that their favorite thing to do is flip pillows which, really, makes for one less chore to cross off your chores list.


I'm watching you?

A photo posted by @the_grudge___ on

Remember the movie The Grudge? That's basically what this is. A super nasty earthbound spirit that has no real purpose or intention other than to creep around a house and scare everyone. No thanks!

Sweet dreams!

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